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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cat's In The Cradle

This past Friday, my cat Spek died at around the age of 21, which is a nice long life.

That's her in the photo above, when she was only 19.

The cat was Colette's, and I inherited both back in 2000 when Colette moved into my condo on April 1. The date is not lost on me.

Spek, a tiny little 3+kilogram black tabby with a splash of white on her chest (a spek (sp)) immediately decided I was more fun to play with, seeing as I fed her and cleaned out her litter box and didn't mind her sitting on my lap or that I had a fun toy—my ponytail that hung half-way down my back—that she could bat with her paws.

I didn't have a pet of my own at that time, which to me was strange, because I have had dogs and a cat of my own since I turned three.

Spek was always a strange cat, which I supposes is indicative of being a cat. While she did all of the usual swatting of the feet under the blankets, the sudden crazy sprint all around the house, the climbing of the drapes (we don't have drapes any more), her strangeness revolved around her NOT really wanting to be petted all that much… maybe just a quickie 'how's-your-father' and that would be it.

Spek, by the way, was an indoor cat, and only actually made it outside twice. Once, she went under a neighbors house and didn't want to come out even though ant's were swarming around her.

It was then that I, being a little bit creative, gave Spek the voice of a pre-Civil War, Southern US woman, naming her Miss Spek, and I would drive Colette nuts by doing the voice whenever Miss Spek was around her.

But… as the years passed, and a child was born, Spek would only come out for her five-minute chat after everyone went to bed… it was like it was me or nothing.

When 2014 came about, it was like the chiming of Auld Lang Syne turned Spek old. She suddenly started hobbling around, wouldn't sleep beside me on the bed because she couldn't get up, had trouble climbing the stairs to her litter box… then she started not using her litter box, going wherever she was when the urge hit. You kept your shoes on just in case.

Walking was also difficult for her, as she seemed to be getting smaller in the rear hips - even though she seemed to be eating her regular amount. She was certainly pooping the same amount.

The day before she died, Spek decided to walk out the open back door and got all the way out to the front sidewalk before a woman walking by came to the backyard where my 8-year-old son was playing and asked him come with her to get the cat.

Later when asked about that, my son said "The lady looked 'nice'" implying he's not very street smart and I have a lot of work to do yet. He picked up the cat, who was slowly walking around seeing things outside for the first or last time, and brought her into the house. Spek didn't put up a fight.

Later that same night, Spek inexplicably tried to walk down a long flight of stairs at around midnight… and I happened to hear her fall down the 10 steps… and after I scrambled to find the light and saw her sprawled hopelessly there, I prayed to whatever god was listening to end her suffering.

I carried her upstairs and placed her on her pillow and stayed with her for an hour. She was purring away and seemed okay, but obviously she wasn't in her right mind or body.

When I awoke the next morning, she was sprawled out on the floor, head down, eyes half-open and I knew that she was going to die.

As I bent down right in front of her so she could see me, she tried to get up, but for the first time ever, she listened to me as I said to lie back down.

I stroked her forehead for a while and then drove to work with tears streaming down my face - kindda like now.

(Never write sad stuff at work.)

At work, I nervously awaited a message from Colette and was not disappointed when she called to tell me Spek was gone, taking care of things before I got back home.

What sucks almost as much as not having Spek (or Buster my chocolate lab, who died last May), is that I didn't make note of which God I prayed to. If I had, it might have been a revelation - finally a god who listens and offers help without me having to sacrifice a virgin into a volcano.

So… what does this have to do with Japan?

Nothing. But let's see if we can rectify that.

My first cat, Sam, died while I was in Japan. That sucked.
I also found a cat outside my apartment door in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken. I lived on the third floor, so why a cat would come up to my door and meow and meow and meow and meow, I'll never know.

I called him Neko (Japanese for 'cat') because there's no point in naming a cat that might belong to someone else that should be returned.

But, there was no collar or tag… and he seemed to have no fear of me, the gaijin, as he walked inside and took a look around my place.

He seemed to like it, or at least deem it satisfactory, and laid on his side atop a nice warn spot on the carpet where a sunbeam was warming it and purred contentedly.

I don't know if he was hungry or thirsty or sick or healthy, but I could at least take care of a couple of those possible concerns.

While I got him a saucer of some milk, I made plans to go out and get him some cat food and a litter box et al.

Finally! A pet I could play with in Japan. (Important note: Goldfish, regardless of the variety or size, don't like being rubbed too hard as their scales will fall off… plus there's that whole breathing thing.)

So… I get all of these items - all found in one spot at the local Iseya grocery store - they were waaaaaay ahead of Walmart in having a department/grocery store rolled into one, as this was back in 1991… poured out the food into a nice new cat food bowl, put some water down in a nice new cat water bowl, poured out the litter into his nice new litter box and realized I had forgot to get a scooper…

Neko didn't use the box, but he did lap up some water and food… and then hopped up on my lap and over onto a pillow on the couch and went to sleep, stirring occasionally to get more food and drink and to purr around my leg.

I sat beside him and watched some TV and wrote a few letters home, and pretty soon the whole day passed and it was time for me to go to sleep.

I can't recall exactly, but this was one of those days when no one called me on the phone and no one knocked on my door… one of those week-ends where my girlfriend Ashly was feeling out of sorts and decided she wasn't going to be my girlfriend that week. Yeah… whatever… seems like I was exposed to someone whose mental ambiguity was perhaps there - but who the fug knows. I only say that with respect to hindsight… and even then, my vision ain't that good.

I picked up Neko and placed him beside me on the bed, and maybe he was just humoring me, but he stayed there beside me quietly licking himself until he thought I'd had enough and then buggered off.

In the morning, I awoke to find Neko lying in another sunbeam… he got up to greet me by purring and rubbing himself around my ankles and waited patiently until I performed by daily ablutions.

I fed him some more, played with him a little with a piece of paper tied around some string and then…

… then he sauntered over to my front door and meowed to be let out.

Now… I've never been the type of pet owner who thinks pets should be allowed to roam all over the damn place crapping on people's lawns and sh!t like that, so I was reluctant, for a few seconds, to have him do just that…

But… then I wisely recalled that he was a found cat, and that perhaps that was 1) what he was used to, and 2) maybe he had enough of me and wanted to back to his real home 3) and if not, he'd be back soon when he got hungry.

It's never #3, people.

I opened the door and watched him walk away slowly - never once looking back at me.

Because there's few things more boring than watching a cat walk away from oneself, I closed the door to that chapter.

I never saw Neko again, and all I have are a couple of photos and an unused kitty litter box which had me scrambling for hours trying to figure out where he had crapped.

I never did find any crap.

Andrew Joseph
I miss Spek, but am glad she passed away without being in any obvious pain.
Did you know that because Spek was not originally from around here, the Vet would have had to give her a $30 exam first before the $250 chore of putting her down and disposing the body? $280 for a sick or old cat? At least Spek did me one last kindness by going when she did.
The City of Toronto will dispose of a pet for $35.
PS: I gave away Neko's un-used litter box to a student after I had help explaining what had happened. The male teachers at one of the schools thought I was dumb, but the women all thought I had a kind heart. After that, word spread and it was sooner easier for me to get dates. It took a pussy cat for me to get... well, you know.

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